Ontario judge who wore Trump hat is off the bench

Big 5

An Ontario judge who wore a Donald Trump campaign hat into court the day after the US election is off the bench.

Justice Bernd Zabel stopped being assigned cases on 21 December, court spokesperson told the BBC.

He wore the red cap into court on 9 November, placing it on the bench near him during proceedings.

A number of formal complaints have been lodged against him over concerns his conduct suggested he lacked impartiality.

A spokeswoman for Ontario Court Chief Justice confirmed to the BBC that the Hamilton, Ontario, judge stopped being assigned to preside in court last month.

Justice Zabel’s office said on Friday he is not commenting on the matter, but on 15 November he apologised in open court for wearing the “Make America Great Again” hat.

“What I did was wrong,” he said. “I wish to apologise for my misguided attempt to mark a moment in history by humour in the court room following the surprising result in the United States election.”

He also said that donning the hat was not meant as a political statement or as an endorsement of President-elect Trump’s policies.

According to the Globe and Mail newspaper, which broke the story, in court that day, Justice Zabel said of the hat: “Just a celebration of an historic night in the United States.”

The Criminal Lawyers’ Association (CLA) is one of the organisations that has filed formal complaints with the Ontario Judicial Council against the judge for wearing political paraphernalia on the bench.

Lawyer Michael Lacy, a vice-president with the association, says there needs to be a transparent investigation into Justice Zabel’s conduct to see whether any further action is necessary, even after his public apology.

“The core of our judiciary in Canada is that judges be independent and objective, that they not be politically partisan in any way,” he said.

“That includes not wearing, or displaying or publicly supporting a political party.”

When the Ontario Judicial Council, which investigates complaints about the conduct of provincially appointed judges, receives a complaint it launches a private investigation.

During this early phase, it is sometimes recommended that the judge in question be suspended with pay or reassigned. A complaint can later be dismissed, referred on, or sent to a public hearing.

Source: BBC